Bertin Wheel Restoration

One of the best things about owning an old bicycle is the need to tinker with it. This can mean anything from cleaning it up to make it rideable to searching relentlessly for the correct parts, decals and paint scheme to return your bicycle to its original glory. There are several approaches to this process and Velouria and Richard Sachs usefully elaborate on the choices and possibilities.

For myself, and my late 1960s Bertin C 37 a “period correct” approach was used. The bicycle is built with equipment that might have been hung on the frame as the late -60s equipment wore out. As well, a previous owner had updated the frame with braze ons, which I much prefer to the period correct bolt on cable stops and guides which are actually appropriate for the time period. The only thing lacking has been the wheels.  The same owner who did the braze ons also changed the wheels. Originally, the bike would have been equipped with Maillard high flange Normandy Luxe hubs with tubular rims and tires. When purchased, the Bertin was wearing low flange, 6 speed Maillard Helicomatics with butted chromed spokes and Mavic Module E silver rims. This made the bike more versatile as the randonneuse it had become but the years and corrosion had compromised the appearance and strength of the wheels.

Replacement was in order but with what? I finally decided to use Maillard 700 high flange hubs. They are period correct and gorgeous. The only available sets were French threaded so I purchased 2 sets on Ebay.fr. This was because my first 36 hole set actually had a 40 hole rear hub! As well, I bought a French threaded 6 speed  freewheel to match. The hubs were polished out and rebuilt with new ball bearings. As you can see in the accompanying photo, they turned out rather well. Thereafter, began a search for replacement Mavic Module Es. This was a two year exercise in frustration. There were simply no 36 hole rims to be found. Rarely, a 32 would show up but never the elusive 36s. Finally, a new 36 hole, 450 gram, highly polished rim with stainless steel eyelets became available. Velo Orange began specing and having manufactured its PBP. It seemed like  a 36 hole clone of the Rigida 13-20s I had used decades ago. Since the rims perfectly suited my anticipated use as well as the look I was seeking, I ordered a pair. (I will review them as soon as the wheels are built up.) Currently, the wheels are being built with new butted stainless spokes and once they are complete I will update this post with photographs.

Velo Orange Bertin Handlebar Bag

Handlebar bag detail

Original Bag Setup

Update February 22, 2010: After Chris, from Velo Orange posted a link to this article, readership jumped dramatically and several people commented on my review. Several asked for photographs of what the handlebar bag looked like on my bike. So, I will post those photographs at the end of this article. Just a note that my frameset is a 60cm ctt so that you have a sense of the scale of the bag.

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For longer rides, I had been considering a handle bar bag for this summer. There had been one with the bike when I bought it that had a stem mounted Mariposa custom designed decaleur but the bag itself left much to be desired. It was unsupported on the bottom  and the load had a tendencey to bounce and shift while the bike was moving. The Mariposa decaleur did its job but the bag design itself was not adequate for the application. Additionally, the weight of items in the bag negatively affected the steering, stability  and responsiveness of the bike.

Watanabe Handlebar bag

Watanabe Bag

So, it became necessary to explore the alternatives. Jitensha Studio has one variety of bag from Japan made by Shoichi Watanabe, as does the Yellow Jersey whose bags come from Ostrich in Japan. Wallingford handles a wide selection of Gilles Berthoud bags.
Berthoud Bags

Berthoud Bags

Velo Orange also sells a handlebar bag called the Campagne. ( See photo below, left) The Berthoud bag was slightly taller and the quality was apparently better. However, price was an important consideration and I selected the Velo Orange product.
The order was placed through the Velo Orange on line store and delivery followed promptly by Canada Post. The package was flattish and securely boxed. When opened, everything was present, undamaged and ready for assembly.
VO Champagne

VO Campagne

The actual bag was packed flat and a quick touch up with a steam iron literally ironed out the wrinkles. The bag is labelled “Made in Pakistan” and sewing and assembly quality is quite good. The bag comes with a shoulder strap made from lesser quality fabric and I disposed of mine since I had no use for it. Leather quality seems good and is uniformly sewn. There are 3, 8 inch ( 20 cm) straps with plated buckles for attaching the bag to the handlebars and the front rack.

Leather Straps

Leather Straps

Issues:  Not many, really. I cleaned up the straps and rolled them with a lint roller to get rid of the small leather fibers left over from manufacturing. The bag is made to be used with some form of decaleur and is pulled closed by the elastic closure cord if none  is present. The bag sags to the middle if not modified. I intended to use the bag without a decaleur so I pop rivetted a strip of aluminium reinforcement onto the top edge of the bag.
Stiffener With Pop Rivets

Stiffener With Pop Rivets

The bag is supplied with 3 black plastic side and bottom stiffeners which work fine as supplied but which I fussed with to make a perfect fit.

Plastic Stiffeners

Plastic Stiffeners

Evaluation: The bag has been a very good value for its price point. I use it on a TA front rack attached to brazed on Mafac Competitions.
TA Rack

TA Rack

Actual attachment is done with a small velcro strap which is much easier to open and close in tight spaces compared to the leather strap originally

Velcro Rack Strap
Velcro Rack Strap

supplied.  Filled full of stuff for a 4 hour ride, the bag remained stable and neatly contained all that I needed. The outside pockets were good for a small camera, tool kit and such like. The map pocket with its velcro closure held everything securely despite a very windy day. Hand space on the bars is affected slightly but is not a problem. Clearance when riding on the hoods is adequate but you are aware of the bag’s presence. The added weight on the bike’s front end had no apparent effect on handling and the bag is a vast improvement over the original configuration. Well done, Velo Orange!

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Photographs of Jim’s Bertin with the V.O. handlebar bag